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LII                   THE SELJUK TURKS                 107
The  Minister   Nizam-ul-Mulk   was   a   peerless  pearl, which   the
All-merciful God esteemed as of great price,
But, precious as it was, the age .knew not its value, so, in jealousy, He
replaced it in its shell.
The Death of Malik Shah, A.H. 485 (1092).—Malik
Shah survived his faithful servant less than a month,
dying at the height of his fame, after a short illness,
before he was forty years of age. With him passed what
may justly be termed the golden prime of the Seljuk
dynasty ; for never within historical times had a vast
empire been better governed than during the thirty years
now concluded.
The Assassins.—In the previous chapter some account
has been given of the origin of the Ismailis and also of
their immediate offshoots. The members of the sect,
under the European name of Assassins, played a large
part on the stage of the Near East and Iran during this
period and the two succeeding centuries, and they became
famous in Europe through the baleful activity of their
Syrian branch. It is therefore desirable to give some
account of their tenets and operations at this period. The
political importance of the sect began with the foundation
of the so-called Fatimid dynasty, which claimed descent
from the Prophet's daughter, and the Ismailis are in
consequence often referred to as Fatimi or Alawi (descend-
ants of AH). By their opponents they are termed Ismaili,
Batini (" Esoterics"), Mulahida ("heretics"), this last
word being the Mulehet of Marco Polo.
The dynasty in question was brought into existence
through a propaganda started in A.H. 260 (873) by a certain
Abdulla bin Maymun al-Kaddah, an oculist of Ahwaz and
a Persian by birth. This extraordinary man founded a
secret society which was to bind together Arabs and
Persians, Christians and Jews, and indeed all mankind,
into a school which was to owe implicit obedience to him-
self and to serve as a powerful instrument of his ambitions.
As in the case of the Abbasid propaganda, dai or mission-
aries spread the peculiar doctrines, which offered all things
to all men—a Mahdi to the Moslems, a Messiah to the
Jews, philosophy to the wise, and liberty to the foolish.